Did FBI compromise lives of American hostages?

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The Independent US

An FBI negotiator's unwillingness to continue talking to two Somali pirate leaders about the release of four Americans being held aboard a yacht may have led to a shootout that killed the hostages, it was reported yesterday.

Citing an unnamed official with the US military, The New York Times disclosed details of the incident, which took place off the coast of Oman on Tuesday. While hijackings by pirates have become a persistent threat in the area, deaths of hostages are unusual.

The FBI negotiator on board a US warship decided he could not take the pirate leaders seriously. The remaining 17 pirates on the yacht were told their leaders were being held in custody on the USS Sterett and an offer was made: release the hostages and the men could go free, either with the yacht or aboard one of the navy's smaller vessels.

The men asked to sleep on the offer and the Americans said they had eight hours to decide. There was nothing to indicate anything was seriously amiss at this point. But hours later a rocket-propelled grenade was fired at the Sterett and gunfire was heard on the yacht. Navy special forces in small boats stormed the pirates, killing two, but the four Americans were dead.

But pirate leaders in Somalia told news agencies that shooting erupted on the yacht only after it was stormed.

What prompted the violence on the boat is still is not clear. Is it possible the Americans were not executed but died in crossfire? And the biggest question for the US government is what responsibility, if any, does the FBI and the Navy have for the Americans' deaths?

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